COVID-19: Crisis or Catalyst?

By Ash Rowe, Senior Event Logistics Manager at the IET

The first in a blog series. Looking at the industry landscape triggered mostly by COVID-19.

COVID-19 is naturally the word on everybody’s lips around the globe at the moment and rightfully so. It has impacted the world in an unprecedented way and led to many thousand infections and deaths. At the time of writing this, 533,948 lives have been lost to Coronavirus and my thoughts go out to everybody impacted by this awful pandemic.

The pandemic has brought the events industry to a standstill and has left people worried about their businesses and their occupations, but it is incredibly important to note that there is light at the end of the tunnel for all of us.

Lifting restrictions

In the UK, we are hoping to see restrictions lifted in the coming weeks and some areas of Europe are already allowing events to take place, including Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, albeit with significantly reduced numbers and strict new restrictions.

The road ahead for the events industry is indeed a long one, but should we be worried or excited about what the future holds? I for one am waiting with bated breath to see all the innovative and dynamic solutions that my fellow event professionals implement.

Shift to the virtual world

There has been a significant shift of events to the virtual world in part due to the pandemic, but it is also incredibly important to remember that our beloved industry has been moving in this direction for a very long time. The lines between broadcast and events have been blurring for several years with the introduction of live streaming, interactivity applications and online communities.

Realistically, such a wide scale introduction of virtual events was unlikely to happen for at least five years but COVID-19 has thrusted our industry into a realm of reimagination and reinvention that will benefit us all going forward.

As an Event Manager, I have seen my job role transition to something that I never thought it would be; connecting people virtually, developing web-based platforms that best celebrate the achievements of the contributors that my events represent and hurdling obstacles that only really present themselves in a virtual landscape. I have had to, very quickly, completely relearn how to do my job to the highest possible standard and it has been incredibly challenging at times, but I am a far better Event Manager now than I was three months ago and I owe this in part to the pandemic.

COVID-19 has also reminded me why I entered this industry in the first place as a young, excitable, somewhat acne-prone kid - the people.

Collaboration in the industry

I have never communicated with as many event managers, venue representatives, technologists, CEOs, finance managers and other industry professionals than I have in the period that lockdown has been in place. Whether it be via LinkedIn, webinars or reaching out to people that I haven’t spoken to in a while, I’ve had conversations on an almost daily basis!

This collaborative approach to the industry is something that we cannot afford to lose. As an industry we are far stronger together and if we continue in this vein, not only will we benefit as individuals both professionally and personally, but our businesses and the industries that we serve will see a far greater product when all is said and done.

In discussions with these people, something else has also become evident; the events industry needs a change in mindset. Somebody that I spoke to said, “we are no longer event professionals; we are problem solvers” and that singular line impacted me in a considerable way. For many of us, simply building an event and overcoming the vast array of challenges associated with them has become our primary focus and COVID-19 has made it abundantly clear that we need to broaden our horizons and address the very basics of event production and delivery. We need to revisit everything that we are doing and work out if there are better, more sustainable ways to do them as we now have far more options available to us.

There is hope

So, in summary, COVID-19 has made a horrific impact on our industry and in many areas has brought us to our very knees, but there is hope. Our industry could emerge from this in the best place that we have been in decades and I can’t think of a better industry to lead the march forward to normality. We are problem solvers; we are innovators and most importantly, we are focussed on the people.


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